Multi-gig networking has finally started to go mainstream. Many mid to high-end motherboards now have 2.5GbE, there are few affordable multi-gig switches and thanks to Wi-Fi 6E, we are beginning to see many routers and access points use 2.5GbE or higher.
Once Wi-Fi 7 gains traction, real-world multi-gig Wi-Fi will be easily achievable.
Even Internet speeds are exceeding gigabit; Virgin Gig1 has average download speeds of 1,130Mbps.
If you have a PC that is limited to gigabit, there are a couple of ways you can upgrade to multi-gig. The best solution is to use a multi-gig PCIe network card, as these are both cheap and provide reliable connectivity.
TP-Link has the TX201, which is just £30, or you could even upgrade to the 10GbE TX401, which is £95.99.
Alternatively, you can use a USB adaptor, and this is the only realistic way a laptop user can upgrade the Ethernet to multi-gig.
I recently reviewed the Ugreen 9 in 1 USB-C docking station. It is excellent, but I expressed frustration at being limited to gigabit Ethernet, and I also became aware of how few docking stations have multi-gig Ethernet ports.
It was a frustrating realisation because there are quite a lot of affordable 2.5GbE USB adaptors.
Compatibility – MacOS, iPad, Android etc
I wrote this list originally without considering the wide range of applications. Going through all the products, all the devices seem to support Windows and MacOS.
Some products state they are not compatible with devices such as with M2 Macs.
Some user reviews confirm compatibility with different devices, such as Android phones/tablets or iPads.
Other reviews provide information on getting the adaptors to work with Macs etc.
I have therefore added basic compatibility information, but you may want to check the reviews yourself.
Best 2.5Gbps USB Ethernet Adaptors
For most people, 2.5GbE is going to be the best option. Many routers, switches and motherboards now support it, and it is the most affordable way to move beyond gigabit.
|Cable Matters USB to 2.5G Ethernet Adapter Supporting 2.5...||£24.99||Buy on Amazon|
Compatibility: MacOS, Windows – Not Compatible with M2 Macs.
I think this is the most and best-reviewed option on Amazon. However, the page also includes cheap gigabit USB adaptors, which will skew the rankings.
It has been available for almost 3 years and is consistently around £20-£27. While I have not reviewed it, it should be a safe option.
|Anker USB C to 2.5 Gbps Ethernet Adapter, PowerExpand USB C...||£29.99||Buy on Amazon|
Compatibility: MacOS, Windows.
It’s Anker, it’s affordable, and it’s well-reviewed. I don’t need to say much more than that. Anker consistently makes excellent products at reasonable prices. The only thing worth noting is that this is USB-C, and there is no USB-A adaptor included.
User confirmed to work with:
- Windows 10
- Vmware ESXi
- Mac is M1 Pro
- Ubuntu’s latest version
|WAVLINK USB C to Ethernet Adapter 2.5 Gigabit, 2-in-1 USB to...||£29.86||Buy on Amazon|
Compatibility: MacOS, Windows – One reviewer confirms this works on the iPad Pro.
A little bit more expensive than the first two recommendations, but it is well-reviewed. This is USB-C but has a USB-A adaptor.
|TERRAMASTER USB A to 2.5G Ethernet Adapter, USB 3.0 Gigabit...||£29.99||Buy on Amazon|
Compatible with Windows 8/10/11, Mac OS and TerraMaster based X86 NAS.
I am mainly listing this adaptor because it is officially compatible with some TerraMaster NAS devices. The product descriptions states specially adapted for TerraMaster X86 Intel TNAS devices with OS above TOS 4.2.39, or TOS 5.1 and above (NOT compatible with TerraMaster F2-210 & F4-210).
|TERRAMASTER USB A to 2.5G Ethernet Adapter, USB 3.0 Gigabit...||£29.99||Buy on Amazon|
Compatible with Mac OS 10.6 or later, Linux, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows 10.
I have personally reviewed the D-Link DUB-E250, and I was happy with the performance. The only problem is that it is not the best value for money, but it has been as low as £30, so worth keeping an eye on.
Best 5 Gbps USB Ethernet Adaptors
Moving beyond 2.5GbE, the options become much more limited, and reviews are less favourable.
|SABRENT USB C Ethernet Adapter super speed 5gbps, USB-C to...||£50.00||Buy on Amazon|
Compatible with: Windows,MacOS, Linux, Android
This option is reasonably priced and well worth considering. The Amazon reviews indicate it is not as good as the TRENDnet below. However, both adaptors are on pages with multiple product options, which can skew the overall review rating. Looking at the reviews specifically for NT-SS5G, multiple people claim it can only get 4 Gbps, and a few others comment about compatibility issues with none Windows devices. However, plenty of other people have had a positive experience with it.
|TRENDnet USB-C 3.1 to 5GBASE-T Ethernet Adapter, TUC-ET5G,...||£92.87||Buy on Amazon|
Compatible with Windows and Mac operating systems.
I previously reviewed the TRENDnet TUC-ET2G, which was one of the best multi-gig options back in 2019. They still sell it, but it is poor value for money compared to my other recommendations. However, they have the TUC-ET5G, which is the most affordable option on the market. The Amazon reviews make it seem like a good product, but if you select the filter for this specific product, there is only one review, and it isn’t very positive due to issues with the Windows dropping the connection.
Best 10 Gbps USB/Thunderbolt Ethernet Adaptors
Things get more complex if you want 10GbE because USB 3.2 Gen 1×1 has a throughput of 5Gbps.
USB 3.2 Gen 1×2 or USB 3.2 Gen 2×1 are both rated at 10Gbps.
However, it is more complex than that. You have to factor in USB overhead, poor latency of USB and power usage.
With USB4 (USB 3.2 Gen 2×2), you have 20Gbps throughput and power delivery would likely provide enough power, but there appear to be no adapters that specifically use this. However, USB4 is compatible with Thunderbolt 3, and there are some quite large and expensive options for this.
One thing worth noting, the now discontinued Startech TB310 adapter stated that it requires a TB3 port with 15W of power, and due to technical limitations of the IC solution, max bandwidth is limited to about 7.5 Gbps. The newer model has no such warnings, but it gives you an idea of the difficulties of 10GbE over TB or USB.
Reviews for these recommendations are all mixed, which I think backs up my thoughts on trying to run 10GbE over TB/USB4. Personally, I’d just go with a 5GbE adaptor.
|QNAP QNA-T310G1T Thunderbolt 3 to 10Gbe Nbase-T Adapter||£199.00||Buy on Amazon|
They are cheaper than the OWC, and they also have an SFP+ variant. My main concern with this one is that is has active cooling, and many reviewers complain about how loud it is. However, most of the negative reviews relate to the noise, so if you can cope with that, this should be the best option that’s in stock.
|SABRENT Thunderbolt 3 RJ-45 USB to Ethernet Adapter, 10Gbps...||£161.06||Buy on Amazon|
Compatible with: Windows 7 SP1 or higher / Mac OS. Confirmed with Macbook m1 and Fedora
One user says it does not work on M2 Macs
This is not currently available, but looking through the reviews, many people have had a positive experience, and it looks like this would be a more reliable option than the others.
Compatibility: Mac,Windows,Windows 10
I believe this was the first 10GbE Thunderbolt adaptor. Reviews aren’t overly positive, and it is regularly unavailable to buy.
|SoNNeT Solo 10G Thunderbolt 3 to 10Gb Base-T Ethernet...||£330.49||Buy on Amazon|
This costs more and has worse reviews, so it is not my top recommendation.
|StarTech.com Thunderbolt 3 to Ethernet Adapter, 10GbE,...||£265.89||Buy on Amazon|
This is the replacement for the TB310, which had quite poor reviews. It looks like this uses a different controller, which is the Marvell AQC107S, so it should provide superior performance. There are no reviews as it has only been on Amazon for 60 days. It is a lot more expensive compared to the others hence being low on my list of recommendations.
I am James, a UK-based tech enthusiast and the creative mind behind Mighty Gadget, which I’ve proudly run since 2007. Passionate about all things technology, my expertise spans from computers and networking, to mobile, wearables, and smart home devices.
As a fitness fanatic who loves running and cycling, I also have a keen interest in fitness-related technology, and I take every opportunity to cover this niche on my blog. My diverse interests allow me to bring a unique perspective to tech blogging, merging lifestyle, fitness, and the latest tech trends.
In my academic pursuits, I earned a BSc in Information Systems Design from UCLAN, before advancing my learning with a Master’s Degree in Computing. This advanced study also included Cisco CCNA accreditation, further demonstrating my commitment to understanding and staying ahead of the technology curve.
I’m proud to share that Vuelio has consistently ranked Mighty Gadget as one of the top technology blogs in the UK. With my dedication to technology and drive to share my insights, I aim to continue providing my readers with engaging and informative content.
Last update on 2023-11-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API